Tommy Hartung, R.U.R. Act One: The Viewer, 2017, still from the 8-minute color HD video component of a mixed-media installation additionally comprising two closed-circuit cameras.

Tommy Hartung

C24 Gallery

Science fiction flourishes in the “great whirlpool periods of history,” according to Darko Suvin, a pioneering theorist of that critically disdained genre. The Czech intellectual Karel Čapek wrote during one of those traumatic times—just after the unspeakable devastation of World War I, just before the ascension of the Third Reich, and during the rise of communism (a philosophy he virulently opposed). Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots is a drama about a cheap workforce of manufactured humanoids who murder their human creators. It’s now best remembered for introducing the word robot, derived from the pan-Slavic word for “labor.”

Tommy Hartung is also working during a great whirlpool period of history, so it makes sense that he would turn to this early sci-fi classic as the loose inspiration for his exhibition at C24 Gallery, eponymously titled “R.U.R.” Almost a century

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